The City and Tea Plantations at the Foot of Fuji-san
Fuji is a city located at the south of Mount Fuji on Suruga Bay, in Shizuoka prefecture, in Japan. Its sceneries of tea plantations with Fuji-san in the background became famous during Edo period (1603 - 1868). A former station of the Tokaido Road, Fuji’s downtown is still a convenient stopover on the Tokyo-Kyoto trip.
Fuji is the third largest city in Shizuoka prefecture, with 250,000 inhabitants and a Shinkansen 🚅 station, Shin-Fuji, allowing to reach Tokyo in about one hour. The area’s economy was mainly built on paper manufactures and tea cultivation thanks to the highly qualitative and abundant water welling from Mount Fuji 🗻. Fuji city and its surroundings grow nearly 40% of Japan’s tea production, and is the first producer of green tea in the country. Not surprisingly, its inhabitants are among the biggest tea drinkers in the archipelago.
A selection of the most beautiful sites in Fuji
Located in the north of Fuji city, Obuchi Sasaba (大淵笹場) tea plantations are the postcard image of Shizuoka prefecture. The wide green tea fields spreading under the blue sky with Mount Fuji in the background promise nice walks in the Japanese countryside.
However, the reality is a bit different. The fields are first and foremost the farmers’ working places and only a small part is accessible to visitors. Although reduced, this opened part nonetheless offers a very beautiful panorama on Fuji-san and the tea plantations on clear weather days. The walk lasts about twenty minutes, and naturally entering the farms or the fields unless being invited to do so is forbidden.
Amateurs of Hokusai's Japanese etchings can visit Hozo-ji temple, whose grounds comprise a small hill where the artist painted one of the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, titled The Tea plantation of Katakura in Suruga Province (駿州片倉茶園の不二 Sunshū Katakura chaen no Fuji). The painting represents the tea fields with Mount Fuji in the background, during Edo period. Nowadays, the city has swallowed the fields and the landscape is totally urbanized.
As for the temple, the small plaza that distributes the pavilions is cute, and the main hall shelters lovely wooden sculptures (visit upon reservation only).
Bishamonten Myohoji temple is more impressive and surprising with its Chinese-inspired architecture, and is worth the detour in the south-east of Fuji, near Yoshiwara station. Each year at the end of January, one of the largest Daruma Matsuri of Japan is held in its grounds. It is a good opportunity to purchase one’s own doll, make a wish and have a monk draw the first eye of the doll.
The temple is located near Suruga Bay, and we recommend the exploration of the seaside towards Fujinokuni Park near Tagonoura Port and Shinfujikawa River’s bridge to get interesting vistas on Mount Fuji, the industrial port and the Shinkansen.
Gourmet addresses in Fuji downtown
Fuji’s shopping downtown spans over a couple of streets and avenues with covered sidewalks that can be quickly explored on foot, over half a day at most.
We particularly recommend visiting the hanko stamp shop Hanno Ozawa (印章専門店 はんの小澤) where it is possible to create one’s own official signature stamp in Japanese. The nice owner helps his one-day students to choose the appropriate kanji (Japanese ideograms) to transcribe their names, and to engrave them directly on the stamp.
Restaurants are plenty in downtown Fuji, and we selected a few of them:
- Mimasuya (ミマスヤ) is a café and restaurant owned by a lovely Japanese couple. Their western-style breakfast with sweet toasts is delicious.
- Sugiyama Fruits (杉山フルーツ) is a greengrocery renowned in the neighborhood, selling excellent fresh fruits as well as fruit jelly made from the local production.
- Adonisu (アドニス) is a café serving an original specialty of the city: the Tsuke-Napolitan noodles. The dish is a savory mix of cold Japanese sukemen noodles to dip in a Neapolitan sauce made with tomatoes, mushrooms and parmesan cheese.
- In the evening, stop by Katsudokoro Jiki-jiki (串処じきじき) pub, an excellent place to have a drink and enjoy delicious yakitori skewered grilled meat and other typical izakaya pub dishes.
Stay at 14 Guest House Mt.Fuji
The inn 14 Guest House Mt.Fuji mainly offers dormitories and is a budget accommodation solution, especially for young travelers or hikers. Its only private room for two opens on a beautiful view on Mount Fuji.
We visited the inn just after its complete makeover: the whole building was renovated and ready for the new fiscal year in April 2020. The rooms, the common room, the toilets 🚽 and shared showers were ready to use. The decoration is of industrial style and pure lines, with white walls, a beautiful wooden floor and an elegant stairway. On the roof, a little terrace offers a panorama on the sacred mountain.
The owners of 14 Guest House Mt.Fuji welcome visitors friendly and are keen to give information on the city. Moreover, the manager has a good command of English. This address is perfectly suited for tight budgets, with prices per night at the time of writing:
- Mixed dormitory: ¥2,900 (~US$20.37),
- Women only dormitory: ¥3,100 (~US$21.77),
- Private double room: ¥7,900 (~US$55.48).
Travelers who want to spend the maximum of their time in Mount Fuji area can stop in Fuji city, especially in winter to enjoy the yearly Daruma festival in Bishamonten Myohoji temple, or in spring 🌸 to admire the soft green of tea leaves and the Fuji-san still covered in snow in the background.